Nigeria vs Argentina
Venue: Krestovsky Stadium
Kick off: 7pm
Nigeria and Argentina will be battling it out for a last-16 spot at the World Cup, and Jorge Sampaoli’s side could make some unwanted history.
Argentina are currently enduring their longest winless run in World Cup finals history and have never previously gone through a first-round World Cup group stage without at least one victory before.
The last time Argentina failed to progress past the group stages of the World Cup was in 2002 – with their sole victory that year coming against Nigeria – but coach Sampaoli has urged to his side to give their best performance on Tuesday.
“We have to make our goal five games to reach the final. Today’s match will be the first final,” he said. “No matter who plays will have the obligation to give until the last bead of sweat so that Argentina will go through.
“We don’t have any alternative and I am sure this is how it will go. Today, I am sure that they will see the best version of Argentina at this World Cup.”
If Argentina beat Nigeria in their final game and Croatia beat Iceland, Argentina go through. They will also go through if they beat Nigeria, Iceland beat Croatia, and Argentina’s goal difference betters Iceland.
But Nigeria can qualify with a draw or win against Argentina if Iceland lose or draw against Croatia, and coach Gernot Rohr was ruthless when asked about ending Lionel Messi’s World Cup campaign, which could potentially be his last.
“We love this great player, Messi, everybody loves him,” he said. “The question is not if it is the last World Cup for him or not, the question is for us to be qualified.
“We are not here to watch him play. We are here to make a result, we are professionals. We are here to defend the colours of Nigeria and we know in football there is no mercy, no pity, everybody wants to win and we cannot make any gifts even if we like very much this player.”